X-rays use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make images of the skull. Standard X-rays are done for many reasons, including diagnosing tumors, infection, foreign bodies, or bone injuries.
X-rays use external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures to diagnose a problem. X-rays pass through body tissues onto specially treated plates (similar to camera film). It makes a "negative" type picture is made. The more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film. Computers and digital media may be used in place of films.
When the body undergoes X-rays, different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. Images are produced in degrees of light and dark, depending on the amount of X-rays that penetrate the tissues. The soft tissues in the body (such as blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film. A bone or a tumor, which is denser than the soft tissues, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray. At a break in a bone, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line in the white bone.
While X-rays of the skull are not used as often as in the past, due to the use of newer technologies such as computed tomography (CT scans) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they are still helpful for looking at the bones of the skull for fractures and detecting other conditions of the skull and brain.
The skull, also called the cranium, is the bony structure of the head. Two sets of bones comprise the skull:
All bones making up the skull are attached to each other by immovable joints, except for the jaw bone, which is attached via a movable joint.
The cranium holds and protects the brain. It is made up of 8 bones. They are:
The skeleton of the face has 14 bones, which include those that make up the jaws, cheeks, and nasal area.
X-rays of the skull may be done to diagnose fractures of the bones of the skull, birth defects, infection, foreign bodies, pituitary tumors, and certain metabolic and endocrine disorders that cause bone defects of the skull. Skull X-rays may also be used to find tumors, check the nasal sinuses, and detect calcifications within the brain.
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend an X-ray of the skull.
You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your healthcare providers. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray exams or treatments over time.If you are pregnant or think you may be, tell your provider. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If it is necessary for you to have a skull X-ray, special precautions will be made to minimize the radiation exposure to the fetus.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
An X-ray may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.
Generally, an X-ray procedure of the skull follows this process:
While the X-ray procedure itself causes no pain, moving the body part being examined may cause some discomfort or pain, particularly in the case of a recent injury or invasive procedure such as surgery. The radiologic technologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: